All Good Things Must Come To An End
Trip Start Sep 14, 2010
10Trip End Nov 16, 2010
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How quickly time flies. Here we are already, our last week in America. With varied expectations, we headed to Los Angeles.
The weather improved slightly as we left Monterey so we followed the scenic 17-Mile Drive linking Monterey and Carmel. We meandered down the crumbled coastline stopping at all the marked 'viewing spots', past beautiful houses and the trademark Lone Cypress and through exclusive Pebble Beach where we stopped at the resort for a look at the stunning view of the beautiful greens that appeared to fall in to the ocean. As much as we would have liked to stay at Pebble Beach for a few days, we continued on to Carmel-by-the-Sea for lunch. Carmel was beautiful and we really enjoyed wandering around the town looking in the windows of lovely little shops, observing the well-dressed cruising the streets in their convertibles and smiling at the numerous pampered pooches walking the streets
We left Carmel via Highway 1, more famously known as The Big Sur. The 90-odd miles of coastline is beautiful and dramatic and at times the highway seems to clutch at the cliffs above the rough sea. Slow traffic unfortunately held us up a bit but it did allow for us to finally get some decent views of the Californian coast! It was too late in the day for us to stop at Hearst Castle (newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst's fantasy-like estate) as tours took close to two-hours and often need advance booking. Instead, we carried on to San Luis Obispo where we stopped for the night.
The next day was to be our last driving day; driving through Santa Barbara and Malibu to reach our final destination - Los Angeles! They say life is sweet in Santa Barbara and its easy to see why! It is picture-perfect with bougainvillea draping white-washed buildings. We noticed a change once we entered California, the people were dressed better, food, coffee , and the shops were all better. This was particularly the case in Santa Barbara and Dawn and Courtney would have loved more time to peruse the shops and cafes along State St. Outside of Santa Barbara we saw a lot of market gardens and Mexicans picking fruit and vegetables.
Coming in to Los Angeles, we passed through Malibu. Dawn was hoping to spot Olivia Newton-John in Malibu but unfortunately we didnt get to see many of the houses as they are all in gated communities. However, Pete did get a short taste of what it would be like to live in Malibu
With ideas of Los Angeles being all about smog, traffic and celebrity wannabes we hit LA with as opened minds as possible. Los Angeles is an interesting and bizarre place, a smorgasboard of life. From the ritzy areas of Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills, to boho Venice Beach. Then there's Disneyland, a stylish and magical place.
Being so big, we were unsure of where to stay in LA. We had got (what turned out to be great) advice from a travel agent in Australia to stay at Santa Monica
As we were staying in Santa Monica (actually on Santa Monica Blvd), we decided to spend our first morning exploring warm, sunny, Santa Monica, the Pier and Venice Beach. Third Street Promenade is action-packed with restaurants, good shopping and at night, crowds of people wander the mall to watch the street performers. The Santa Monica pier is the end point of the famous Route 66 and is fun with a quaint carousel, a solar-powered ferris wheel and a rollercoaster. As we had been on Route 66 a couple of times during our road trip, we thought it was fitting that we should end our holiday at the end point of the highway. It's difficult to explain Venice Beach. It's full of un-hinged homeless talking to themselves, bronzed and buff fitness fanatics, people promoting legal marijuana and asia-like shanty shops. It's a freak show, a human zoo and a wacky carnival, but Venice is truly an essential experience. Along the designated track between Santa Monica and Venice, you can get your hair braided, your palms read, get a massage or make a donation to the many beggars. Venice is crazy and weird and tacky, but vibrant and lots of fun for a look and to spend the morning.
Next, we took the car down Santa Monica Blvd, to Sunset Blvd to Beverly Hills and Hollywood
Dawn really wanted to go to Disneyland, and although Pete and Courtney didn't share the same excitement, we all headed off bright and early one morning, arriving at the park at 9.30am. By 10am, after catching a train from the carpark to the entrance, we were inside and mesmerised. Sure, it was frenzied, but the parallel world you enter as you walk through the main gates is enchanting. The park had just been finished being decorated for Xmas and the decorations and xmas carols that were being played were absolutely magnificent and beautiful. As Courtney saw Mary Poppins, the image of the character and the park overwhelmed her and embarassingly to say, made her a little teary! As the morning passed, the crowds continued and it was soon so packed it was hard to believe that this was off season. There were thousands of heavily packed prams and strollers (and not necessarily with kids!), and children dressed as their favourite Disney characters
We decided to head back to Hollywood and check out that area more thoroughly. We walked along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, checking out some of the stars embedded in the footpath
When the tour was over, we headed to LA's most recogniseable landmark, the Hollywood Sign
Our last full day in LA before we flew out was spent organising our stuff and packing. We hadn't bought a lot but most of it was fiddly stuff to pack so it took some time to get it all sorted (and a couple of extra suitcases!). In the afternoon we headed to Third St Promenade in Santa Monica for one last look at the shops. Third Street Promenade is a pedestrian friendly mall similar to Burke St Mall with shops, restaurants and street performers. There is a mixture of shopping from local business to chain stores such as Nordstroms Department Store, H&M, Pottery Barn and Gap. We enjoyed the atmosphere of the promenade at night and saw some really good street performers.
The last day had to arrive sooner or later and whilst we were looking forward to be coming home (for a rest!) we were sad that our trip had come to an end
We left for the airport with plenty of time to spare in case we got stuck in the horrendous LA traffic but we had a dream run to the airport. We dropped off the hire car and before we knew it, we were at our terminal and checked in. Tipping a guy who helped with our bags turned out to be well worth it as he took us to an elevator and subsequetly past a long line of people waiting to go through security. We were surprised that there was no immingration at the airport. Apparently America only cares about who is coming in to the country, not who is leaving it! We had heard all the horror stories about LA airport; how big it is etc
All good things must come to an end though and we are back in Australia. It doesn't take long to get back in to the daily routine and before long, our wonderful and fantastic holiday seems so long ago. Courtney is back at work, Pete is adjusting to retirement and Dawn is busy getting the house in order before Christmas. We are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of Bianca's baby in mid-December. Bianca has kept the first-time grandparents busy in Melbourne, helping her set up furniture etc.
For just over 2 months, we drove 8,900 miles (14,300 km), and ate our way through 29 states. We visited dazzling cities, stood next to towering redwoods, spent time in the rolling vineyards of the Napa Valley, saw chiseled peaks and barren desert and marvelled at the dramatic coastline. We followed the history trail of the Civil War one minute, then the next we were hanging out in the casinos of Vegas. One day we were eating fried chicken and ribs, the next we were eating all-organic. America is the country of diverse roadtrips - from the scenic country lanes of New England to the big skies of Montana
The trip was not only a holiday to see America, it was an opportunity to spend some wonderful time with each other and the fantastic memories of the holiday will be something we will cherish for a long time to come.